Apple Card investigated for gender bias

Apple’s tech-oriented credit card is at the heart of a new investigation into alleged gender discrimination.

New York state regulators have announced an investigation into Goldman Sachs, the bank that issues the Apple Card, after a series of viral tweets from a consumer who shared the vastly different credit limits that were issued to him and his wife when they both applied for the card.

The NYSDFS was first tipped off by a viral Twitter thread from tech entrepreneur David Heinemeier Hansson, begun on Nov. 7. He detailed how his card’s credit limit was 20 times higher than his wife’s, even though she has a higher credit score and they file joint tax returns. Hansson referred to the Apple Card as a “sexist program” and said that its over-reliance on a “biased” algorithm did not excuse discriminatory treatment.

After his complaints on Twitter, Hansson found his wife’s Apple Card’s credit limit was increased to match his. However, Hansson’s frustration was not only with the credit line issue, but also how customer support is trained to handle the accusation of gender bias: blame the algorithm.

Hansson’s complaints were even echoed by Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, who responded to Hansson’s tweet, saying “the same thing happened to us.” Wozniak said that his credit limit was 10 times higher than what his wife had, even though they did not have any separate assets or accounts. In his view, Apple should “share responsibility” for the problem.

Others shared similar stories…

The CEO of Goldman Sachs denied wrongdoing on Monday, stating unequivocally that “we have not and will not make decisions based on factors like gender.” He added that the company would be open to re-evaluating credit limits for those who believe their credit line is lower than their credit history would suggest it should be.

Superintendent of the NYSDFS Linda Lacewell said Sunday in a statement that state law bans discrimination against protected classes of individuals, “which means an algorithm, as with any other method of determining creditworthiness, cannot result in disparate treatment for individuals based on age, creed, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, national origin or other protected characteristics.” She added that this “is not just about looking into one algorithm” but also about working with the tech community more broadly to “make sure consumers nationwide can have confidence that the algorithms that increasingly impact their ability to access financial services do not discriminate.”

Why it’s Hot:

Apple and Goldman Sachs may blame “the algorithm,” but ultimately that algorithm was created by humans – and that excuse doesn’t cut it with customers. As we increasingly rely on algorithms and AI, how do we ensure they’re built without our innate biases?

Sources: Time, Mashable

The jet lag app you never knew you needed

Introducing Timeshifter: an easy-to-use, straightforward app that helps people fight jet lag. Users simply enter in their full flight details (including multi-leg flights, stopovers), chronotype (morning person or a night owl), along with their individual sleep patterns. The latter is composed of your preferred bedtime/wake-up times as well as any other favorite aids, like melatonin or coffee intake.

Timeshifter then instantly delivers a personalized sleep schedule. It’s a full plan accompanied by push notification alerts like “avoid caffeine for the next 6 hours,” “expose yourself to light starting in 30 minutes,” or “take melatonin.” One can start it three days in advance of one’s flight or up until a minute before take-off, though the plan changes depending on advance lead time. The service costs $10 per jet lag plan or $24.99 for an annual subscription.

“Our plans have a practicality filter, where the advice fits with what you can really achieve in the real world,” says Dr. Steve Lockley, a neuroscientist and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. The renowned expert in circadian rhythms and former NASA consultant developed the Timeshifter app algorithm after a decade of devising custom jet lag plans for Formula 1 drivers and astronauts.

The app is unique in that it’s entirely based on sleep neuroscience and focused on shifting one’s internal clock forward. As Timeshifter cofounder and CEO Mickey Beyer-Clausen, explains, beating jet lag involves moving one’s circadian cycle to the new time zone as soon as (feasibly) possible. But it’s not one-size-fits-all. Based on the information provided by each user, Timeshifter could have hundreds of different versions of the same trip, depending on sleep patterns or even when they started using the app.

The app also strives to make actions attainable based on your schedule. “So if you’re asked to avoid light, it doesn’t mean being in complete darkness or closing your eyes. It means being exposed to less light than [usual],” explains Lockley. “There’s no point in advising you go to bed at 7:00 PM because the chances are you’re not really gonna do that.”

While several other jet lag apps exist, such as Jet Lag Rooster, they do not base circadian rhythm on personalized details. Others, like Uplift, recommend timed acupressure to prevent jet lag.

Why it’s Hot:

This is an awesome use of technology and human knowledge. It would have been an amazing piece of technology for a modern travel brand to create to build a more holistic user experience. I could also see travel brands like Away including a trial for this app with a purchase of their suitcases.

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Your Google Home / Alexa could spy on you

By now, the privacy threats posed by Amazon Alexa and Google Home are common knowledge. Workers for both companies routinely listen to audio of users—recordings of which can be kept forever—and the sounds the devices capture can be used in criminal trials.

Now, there’s a new concern: malicious apps developed by third parties and hosted by Amazon or Google. The threat isn’t just theoretical. Whitehat hackers at Germany’s Security Research Labs developed eight apps—four Alexa “skills” and four Google Home “actions”—that all passed Amazon or Google security-vetting processes. The skills or actions posed as simple apps for checking horoscopes, with the exception of one, which masqueraded as a random-number generator. Behind the scenes, these “smart spies,” as the researchers call them, surreptitiously eavesdropped on users and phished for their passwords.

The malicious apps had different names and slightly different ways of working, but they all followed similar flows. A user would say a phrase such as: “Hey Alexa, ask My Lucky Horoscope to give me the horoscope for Taurus” or “OK Google, ask My Lucky Horoscope to give me the horoscope for Taurus.” The eavesdropping apps responded with the requested information while the phishing apps gave a fake error message. Then the apps gave the impression they were no longer running when they, in fact, silently waited for the next phase of the attack.

SRLabs eventually took down all four apps demoed. As with most skills and actions, users didn’t need to download anything. Simply saying the proper phrases into a device was enough for the apps to run.

There’s little or no evidence third-party apps are actively threatening Alexa and Google Home users now, but the SRLabs research suggests that possibility is by no means far-fetched.

 Why it’s Hot:
This is potentially very, very scary. With all of the backlash around Facebook, it seems inevitable that voice devices will soon face similar scrutiny. What safety measures will they take to ensure this never happens in real life?

Blockchain Meets Broadway

Buying tickets for a Broadway show can involve a lot of unwelcome drama, so it’s not surprising that some of the theater industry’s biggest players are looking for ways to make ticket buying more secure. One possible solution to ticket fraud is blockchain technology, which has a ledger system that allows new transactions to be recorded but not erased. And now the Shubert Organization, the biggest theater operator on Broadway, is giving it a try.

The organization, through its Telecharge and Shubert Ticketing division, has teamed up with a Boston-based startup called True Tickets, which offers a mobile ticketing solution that runs on IBM’s blockchain platform. The startup was one of two companies selected to take part in this summer’s inaugural Broadway Tech Accelerator—the results of which included pilot programs aimed at refining the ideas.

True Tickets’ pilot with Shubert will begin next year and will integrate the startup’s digital ticketing service into “targeted components” of Shubert’s ticket-selling businesses, including Telecharge.com and Broadway Inbound (its group discounts service), among others. The details are a little vague, but the companies say they hope the pilot will help reduce the risk of fraud and that buyers who have tickets sent to their phones through the service can be “guaranteed” that they’re real.

Why it’s Hot:

For years we’ve been hearing about how blockchain would change the future – is the future finally here? This technology could have a huge impact on all ticketed events, providing transparency and helping to eliminate illegal reselling.

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KitKat Kranes

In an effort to cut down on plastic waste, KitKat has changed the packaging of its chocolate bars in Japan.

Rather than using plastic, the Nestlé brand is wrapping its chocolate treats in high strength paper that is both rain and snow resistant. The packaging is fully recyclable and has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

KitKat is also encouraging its customers to use the wrappers for other purposes like writing messages or creating origami shapes and figures. The packaging includes instructions on how to make origami paper cranes.

The initiative is predicted to save around 380 tons of plastic packaging annually, according to the brand.

Why it’s Hot:

Actions speak louder than words. With conversations around sustainability and environmental protection continuing to grow, taking the steps to better your products goes a lot further than a big flashy spot about “going green.” Plus, adding the origami tutorial to the packaging brings added value to the product.

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Mattel’s Gender-Neutral Doll

On Wednesday, Mattel released a line of customizable, gender-inclusive Barbie-style dolls called “Creatable World.”

The dolls don’t carry traditional feminine or masculine traits. Carefully manicured features betray no obvious gender: the lips are not too full, the eyelashes not too long and fluttery, the jaw not too wide. There are no Barbie-like breasts or broad, Ken-like shoulders. Each doll in the Creatable World series looks like a slender 7-year-old with short hair, but each comes with a wig of long, lustrous locks and a wardrobe befitting any fashion-conscious kid: hoodies, sneakers, graphic T-shirts in soothing greens and yellows, along with tutus and camo pants.

The line alsooffers dolls with a range of skin tones. This customization means children can play with a toy that better represents how they look.

For years, millennial parents have pushed back against “pink aisles” and “blue aisles” in toy stores in favor of gender-neutral sections, often in the name of exposing girls to the building blocks and chemistry kits that foster interest in science and math but are usually categorized as boys’ toys. Major toy sellers have listened, thanks to the millennial generation’s unrivaled size, trend-setting ability and buying power. Last year, Mattel did away with “boys” and “girls” toy divisions in favor of nongendered sections: dolls or cars, for instance.

Why it’s Hot:

After decades of criticism for reinforcing female stereotypes with Barbie, Mattel has finally created something that aligns with society’s ever-evolving views on gender. While the line has already earned its fair share of criticism, there is also huge reward potential among more progressive parents (a growing group as more millennials and Gen Z-ers have children).

As marketers, we need to be aware of shifting perceptions when creating content for younger audiences. They’re growing up in a much more sensitive and inclusive environment, which means relying on old tropes and assumed gender roles really won’t fly with them.

Sources: Time, Mashable

Instagram nips at cosmetic surgery and diet posts

Instagram has announced that it will restrict users under the age of 18 from seeing posts that promote select weight-loss products and cosmetic surgery procedures, while the company will also ban some types of ads that promote unrealistic “get thin quick” products entirely.

From now the company will restrict users under the age of 18 from seeing any Instagram posts that promote weight-loss products or types of cosmetic surgery that also have an incentive to buy or are accompanied by a price for the product shown in the post. Posts do not need to be from the product’s account to be eligible for the ban. Any influencer who, for example, shows a sachet of “weight loss” tea in a post and urges their followers to buy it would find that post will not be shown to under-18’s.

The company also said it will remove posts entirely if it “makes a miraculous claim about certain diet or weight-loss products, and is linked to a commercial offer such as a discount code.”

Why it’s Hot:

As a platform that’s largely driven by unrealistic portrayals of influencers’ lives, how much impact will this “ban” really have on the Instagram experience? Are they taking a cue from Pinterest in taking a moral stance here? Is it too little, too late?

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Soap lathering up social good

BECỌ, a social enterprise that makes environmentally-friendly toiletries, is asking businesses to hire more job applicants with disabilities.

Around 80% of BECỌ employees are either visually impaired or physically disadvantaged. However, according to the brand, 1.1 million disabled people are still struggling to find work in the UK.

To address this problem and incite change, BECỌ created the campaign #StealOurStaff that launched earlier this month. The brand turned the packaging of its soap products into resumes. Each soap box and label showcases the name, job role, skills and headshot of one of its employees accompanied with the hashtag #StealOurStaff. The products are currently available for purchase in Boots, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose – three major UK retailers.

BECỌ also also wrote an open letter that challenged employers to take a stand and change attitudes about hiring people with disabilities.

To promote the campaign, BECỌ created a video featuring its employees talking about their jobs. The video humorously lampooned traditional TV audio descriptions in ads.

Why it’s Hot:

This campaign is a win for the brand on all fronts: they’re able to sell product while touting their company’s core belief (plus, customers get to feel good by supporting them and buying). At a time when brands are trying to show customers they care, BECO is doing more than just talking about social good – social good is build into the fiber of their company.

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The Coke Challenge… Kind of

It’s a testament to the staying power of the Pepsi Challenge —first introduced in 1975—that random pedestrians aren’t freaked out by bubbly strangers asking them to eat unlabeled food. Instead, the offer evokes a giddiness at being selected for such an important task.

So the people chosen for a recent “Coke Challenge” were understandably intrigued, even excited at the prospect of learning a bit more about their own tastes. Instead, they got a brush with death.

The “coke” in this case was, of course, cocaine—one baggie filled with pure powder, and the other containing cocaine laced with enough fentanyl to kill anyone who snorted it. Cocaine is increasingly being cut with the synthetic opioid to increase its effects, but that is driving overdose deaths. In 2017, the CDC attributed more than 7,500 deaths to cocaine laced with fentanyl or other synthetic opioids.

Fentanyl tampering can’t be detected by sight, smell, or taste, so recreational drug users take a risk every time. They’re also in more danger than regular drug users, because they typically have no tolerance to opioids.

Like the real Pepsi Challenge, though, the head-to-head comparison was a marketing tactic, created by DanceSafe, a U.S.-based non-profit that sells fentanyl test strips they say can detect the presence of the drug. The organization’s focus is on safety and education in the electronic dance community and is known for bringing adulterant screeners to raves that can check for unexpected tampering. DanceSafe is neither for or against drug use, so there’s no judgment in the campaign, just a bit of humor, evident in the tagline, “Know before you blow.”

Rather than taking a staunch anti-drug approach, the campaign focuses on reducing potential harm to people who choose to use recreational drugs. The video of the challenge was released in time for International Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31.

Why it’s Hot:

Sometimes you don’t have to reinvent the wheel – you just need to re-frame it (re-spoke it? re-mount it? cars, Idk). Part of what makes this execution so relevant is it takes something everybody knows (the Pepsi Challenge) and turns it on its head. Grounding something foreign (fentanyl) in a cultural known (taste testing) lends credibility and lightheartedness to a topic that can seem daunting.

Culturally, this product also fits into a new attitude surrounding drugs. With the opioid epidemic continuing to grow and fatalities rising, gone are the days of “just say no” and “this is your brain on drugs” (cue cracking eggs) – the priority with products like DanceSafe and Naloxone is trying to reduce overdoses when people use drugs. Question: Will this new mindset surrounding drugs have any halo effect on the medical field as a whole?

Source: AdAge

Amazon Prime Video will stream Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty fashion show

After the Fall/Winter 2019 collection of Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty show debuts during New York Fashion Week, the show will be available to stream exclusively for Amazon Prime Video subscribers on Sept. 20 in more than 200 countries.

The Amazon Prime Video special will also include an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the making of the show, which will consist of “performances from some of the hottest acts in music” as well as feature models, actors and dancers wearing styles from the collection, per Amazon’s press release.

Why it’s Hot:

Potential Retail Tie-In: There is a huge opportunity for the brand to follow up fashion show viewership with product communications through Amazon Prime, directly tying hand raisers to product purchasing.

Inclusivity is IN: Victoria’s Secret cancelled its annual televised fashion show in May, after the broadcast hit a new ratings low on ABC (likely due in part to their CMO’s very unpopular comments in November – he also recently resigned). The growing popularity of Savage X Fenty is indicative of a larger trend – in the wake of the body positivity and inclusivity movements, brands who embrace diversity are poised to take the lead.

Source: RetailDive, The Hollywood Reporter

Print Gets Targeted

Hearst is beginning to roll out MagMatch, a service that translates online behaviors into targeted print ads.

By tracking what readers are doing online, MagMatch will allow Hearst to create personalized ads for subscribers of its magazines. For example, if a Marie Claire subscriber’s online behaviors (searching, reading, clicking on ‘buy’ buttons) suggest an interest in a particular beauty product, Hearst could work with the brand of that product to deliver a targeted ad that appears in that reader’s next issue of Marie Claire.

For subscribed readers, that could look like an ad that addresses them by their name, which is the route that skincare company StriVectin took in the latest issue of Elle as the first brand to buy into the ad offering. The ad (shown above) includes a brief message from Elle and is addressed to the magazine subscriber alongside a picture of StriVectin spokeswoman Lauren Hutton.

Subscribers don’t even need to be logged onto the magazines’ sites for Hearst to capture their first-party data: the company anonymously matches their behavior using third parties.

Why it’s Hot:

Print has come under fire for its lack of targeting capabilities for decades, but will this new tool be enough? While it’s undeniably a step up from the print of the past, these new ads can only be targeted to subscribers, which is a dwindling community. Plus, the extensive lead time for print means people could be served ads for a product they were looking at months prior. For new product releases in specific categories (ex. beauty), however, this tool could be helpful.

Source: Contagious, Adweek

 

Mayonnaise + Leftovers = Gourmet Restaurant?

Unilever-owned mayonnaise brand Hellmann’s is so familiar that it can get overlooked in the fridge, along with other ingredients that often get thrown away when we don’t think we can use them.

In the brand’s newest campaign, Hellmann’s highlights the food waste caused by unused leftovers. To prove that mayonnaise can be a key ingredient that turns leftovers into a meal, the agency opened a temporary restaurant in São Paulo, Brazil: The Restaurant With No Food.

Diners were sent Hellman’s branded cool-bags to bring their fridge leftovers, and invited to dine for free at the restaurant. A handful of celebrity chefs then created gourmet meals from the ingredients and Hellman’s mayonnaise. Following the meal, Hellmann’s gave them the recipes for what they had been served.

During its two-day activation, the campaign generated more than 200 news reports and 50 million impressions. Sales of Hellmann’s went up by 8% and it’s estimated that over 2,700 ingredients were saved. The Restaurant With No Food also received an official endorsement from the UN World Food Programme, and Hellmann’s plans to repeat the initiative in other key markets in Europe this year.

Why it’s hot:

This campaign is a perfect example of what a good insight can do. The brand likely saw the decline in mayonnaise purchases, but this unique insight around food waste allowed them to unlock a solution to the problem in a new way. Viewing their business challenge through a wider lens than just “nobody’s buying our mayonnaise” allowed Hellmann’s to tap into a larger cultural conversation.

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Burger King Sweden: Meat Roulette

Burger King Sweden recently released two plant-based burgers, the Rebel Whopper and Rebel Chicken King.

To introduce the burgers, and to show customers that plant-based burgers make convincing meat substitutes, the food retailer created 50/50 Menu. Customers who order a Whopper or Crispy Chicken Burger from the 50/50 Menu could instead receive the Rebel Whopper and Rebel Chicken King. Customers can then guess if they are eating a plant or meat-based burger, and they can find out if they have guessed correctly by scanning the box using the Burger King app. There is no reward for guessing correctly, but the 50/50 Menu is cheaper.

Since the campaign (which lasts three weeks) launched on Monday, July 7th, 60% of customers have guessed correctly and 40% have been unable to tell the difference.

Why it’s Hot: 

As the conversation around plant-based meat substitutes continues to grow, Burger King’s activation successfully answers one of skeptics’ main concerns: do they actually taste good? The activation’s challenge-style approach and simple tech integration make trying plant-based burgers fun, even for those who aren’t on the plant-based bandwagon.

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Havaianas Makes a Shoppable Boardwalk Mural

For their latest campaign, “Step into Summer,” Havaianas collaborated with renowned street artist, Buff Monster, to transform the Venice Beach Boardwalk into an immersive art installation and shoppable AI experience.

The activation began with a 15′ x 85′ mural at Venice Beach, which was crafted from rubber to correspond with Havianas’ rubber-soled sandals. The brand then encouraged people to step onto the mural and scan their favorite part of the artwork via a microsite on mobile. The microsite uses Google Vision AI technology to identify that section of the mural, then it matches consumers with corresponding sandal styles to purchase.

Influencer partnerships helped to promote and support the activation.

Why it’s hot: OOH isn’t just about billboards anymore – it’s an opportunity to have people interact with your brand in new ways. Pairing mobile with OOH also opens the door for follow-up interactions, helping brands drive consumers down the marketing funnel.

Another thought – this is also a great way to fast track toward personalization / customization for new customers.